Once again, the holiday season is upon us! It is my favorite time of the year! The celebrating has already begun in my life! I have done some baking, been jamming out to Christmas music on Spotify daily, celebrated at a Friendsgiving party last weekend, Lizzy and I have our house all decked out with all the Christmas decorations, The Hallmark Channel is all that I have been watching, and I’ve been enjoying some holiday beverages such as the Kaffe Kringle over at Duluth Coffee Company. Not to mention my mother and I picked up holiday scented candles and soaps at Bath and Body Works the other day (which includes my favorite holiday scent: Vanilla Bean Noel). Prior to decorating, Liz and I went to see Bad Mom’s Christmas and we have both been rocking our holiday pj’s from Old Navy lately as well. I have also already picked out my Christmas sweater for all of the contests this year… okay, I am sure you get the picture(;
So, clearly, I am a holiday fanatic! Aka a holly-jolly, Christmas and Thanksgiving obsessed, gets way too excited about everything that is holiday-related type of freak. What is it that I love about this time of the year? There is so much that I could mention, but to name a few of the highlights:
- It is the season of giving! That means I get to pick out the perfect presents for all of my loved ones just because I can!
- There is a feeling of ‘togetherness’ that brings everyone together. Your family, your teachers, your friends, your neighbor, the grocery store clerk…everyone feels like your best friend this time of year!
- Christmas decorations that are oh-so beautiful, especially all of the lights!
- All the food that is never-ending and tastes better than any other time of the year
- The Hallmark Channel is playing holiday-themed movies 24/7
- The music is so jolly and makes you want to sing no matter what setting you’re in
- This is the gold-mine of the year as far as family traditions go: Family baking, dinners, sweater contests, secret-sisters…
So where exactly am I going with all this? Well, first of all, I just wanted to share with you all my excitement and talk about this amazing season that I would perpetually live in if I was given the chance. But, I have a more important point that that I am looking to get to:
A reminder to stay mindful this holiday season.
I want to begin by mentioning that I believe mindfulness is extremely important for everyone to practice in every aspect of their lives all of the time. However, I believe that there is a heightened need for it during these months because of the holidays. This is the busiest time of the year, and for many, can also be the most stressful as well, making it way too easy to forget to really take time and enjoy what is happening all around you.
Think about it: Whenever someone starts to open a gift, everyone takes out their phone to snap a photo. Each time you and your friends are celebrating the holidays together, no one can eat their meal until the perfect shot has been captured of the Instagram worthy dishes. Nor can you lay your coat down until you have gotten all the perfect shots of the entire setting. When it come to family parties, we spend so much time taking family photos with different props, lighting, mixture of members, that when it is all said and done, Santa is already waiting to drop through the chimney. Or how about Black Friday, or gift-buying in general, when you have to make sure to purchase something for absolutely everyone you know? Of course, you also need to wrap the presents perfectly, making sure it speaks to the gift-receiver’s soul, and get it from the highest-quality retailer at the lowest-price known to man. Or when you’re making a big meal, it needs to be perfect, right? The dinner must have each and every traditional dish that the current holiday is famous for plus every possible dessert, not to mention adding your personal touches to the feast all while keeping in mind the vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-intolerant, grain-free, peanut-allergic people you also have to cook for. This, in short, spells out stress.
As much as we all wish that we could just enjoy the holidays, we always seem to allow these stressors to come inbetween us and our happiness. That’s where I look to practicing mindfulness. Learning to be mindful is actually quite an easy concept, despite what many people may think. To be mindful is to use all of your senses and be aware of what you are doing. Paying attention to the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and the textures around you. Realizing what you are doing, what is happening around you, and being present for it all. Let me put this into context: Mindfulness might mean paying attention to the pressure that your feet feel against the ground, focusing on the rhythm of your breathing, or maybe it means you stop to listen to the sound of the wind blowing in the distance. It can be used in all aspects of life:
- Next time you are listening to music, take some time to truly listen and understand the lyrics.
- When your mother is cooking breakfast, stop and listen to the sizzle of the bacon grease in the pan. Take a minute to sniff and take in the aromas of the freshly toasted bread that just popped from the toaster.
- Take a moment and find a nearby window. Now, stand in front of the window and look at whatever it is outside the glass. Do not just look, but see. Notice the beauty of the small flowers, the texture of the siding on the neighbor’s house, the color of the car parked on the sidewalk.
Mindfulness, in short, is experiencing life and everything it has to offer. I know for certain that I don’t want to wake up one morning when I’m an old lady and question where my life went. I don’t want to look back and realize I just drifted through life and allowed stress, tiredness, and worry to rule me and kept me from enjoying myself. Or even allowed my own self, by not paying attention to the people and events in my life, to keep me from being totally, 100 percent, all-the-way present and alive for my life.
As I mentioned before, this practice is something we need to work on daily, but I wanted to share it with you right now so that as Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., roll up that you are able to use my advice to make this holiday season the most enjoyable and memorable than they’ve ever been before. So, as the holiday parties begin to take place, make sure to take an extra second to savor the homemade cider, to catch-up with an old friend, to listen to Frank Sinatra on the radio, and to notice the gorgeous decorations. As you are preparing for a big meal, don’t allow the little things to get to you. If you are only able to bake an apple pie, and don’t have time for a pumpkin, there isn’t much you can do. Instead of allowing the emotions to overtake you, take some deep breaths and remind yourself you’re only human and the absence of that pie won’t ruin anyone’s holiday. Instead, decide that you are just going to enjoy yourself and the apple pie that you did have the chance to make. When you are at your town’s Christmas parade, instead of taking out your phone to try to document the whole thing, therefore never truly experiencing it in person, maybe just take a photo or two, and then put your phone away to enjoy what is happening while it is going on. (Just a little disclaimer: I am not telling you to not take photos, if I was, I would be a hypocrite. However, I am saying that taking a few photos is all you need for memories. After that, I believe that you should just enjoy the moment. This also applies to everything else. Don’t totally shut your emotions off when stress or another negative factor comes your way, but instead acknowledge its existence and decide that you’re not going to allow it to rule you.)
This year is going to be the best yet, and I know that for a fact. This is because I plan to be there for every single moment of it. I am not going to let any emotions get in my way, nor am I going to let myself go through this season only kind-of noticing and experiencing. I am going to enjoy every moment, be aware of everything at all times, and have the most amazing 2017 Holiday Season that I could possibly ever have. And you can decide that you’re going to do the same as well. So, are you with me?